On the software front, an increasingly common theme for secure flash drives is manageability. Most useful with fleets of drives, manageability means that the drive's status and security characteristics may be modified by an administrator--locally, or remotely across a network or the Web. Using a server console such as BlockMaster’s SafeConsole or Imation’s ACCESS Server, your friendly IT guys-in-black can set password strength, force password changes, track logins, and the like. They can even set drives so that the data partition is hidden unless the unit is in contact with a server. No less than four of the drives in our roundup are manageable in this sense: the Defender 2000, the Defender F200, the CE-Secure Vault FIPS, and the DataTraveler 4000 Managed. The latter is managed only (and available in an unmanaged version, too), while the previous three may be also be used unmanaged.
The Imation Defender F200 took top honors with its combination of biometrics, FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certification, and hint of élan, but it's a mediocre performer. Kanguru's Defender 2000 offers top-notch security and speed in spades (for a USB 2.0 drive), though the software is a bit immature. The CMS CE-Secure Vault FIPS and the Kingston DataTraveler are also good USB 2.0 performers, are FIPS 140-2 Level 2-certified, and have good software. The super-convenient Apricorn Aegis Secure Key would have scored higher if it had not lost points for both its slow performance and its current lack of FIPS 140-2 certification.
View the Top Secure Flash Drives chart online.